Including an animal companion in an estate plan might seem like something reserved for celebrities. However, that is not the case at all. As much as we think of our pets as members of our family, not many people think to plan for their pet’s future.

While individuals can include their pets in their will, they can also ensure that their pets receive the care they need with a pet trust.

What is a pet trust?

According to NBC News, nearly 500,000 pets end up in animal shelters when the people taking care of them pass away or are unable to care for them any longer. Some might be adopted, but there is no way to make sure of that.

Creating a pet trust can help protect pets from the shelter. A pet trust is just like any other trust someone might include in their estate plan. It is a legal document that:

  • Chooses someone to care for the pets in the owner’s absence
  • Outlines specific care instructions for the pet
  • Provides finances to cover any pet expenses, including:
    • Visits to the veterinarian
    • Costs of food and toys
    • Other services, such as grooming

This trust allows pet owners to choose the best possible caregiver for their pets—aside from themselves—and provide the finances to meet the pet’s needs.

What to consider when making a pet trust

There are a few things to take into account to create an effective and realistic pet trust. People can be as specific and detailed as they wish to ensure their pets receive quality love and care. Therefore, it is often helpful to include:

  • The pet’s accustomed care
  • Any special directions or needs
  • The pet’s standard of living
  • The life expectancy of the pet
  • End-of-life instructions for the pet

Under California law, the pet trust terminates when the pet passes away. So, it is also essential for individuals to consider how they wish to use any leftover finances in the trust. 

When California families care for their pets as if they are a part of the family, then it is just as important to have a plan for them as it is for any other loved one. A pet trust is one way to protect the pet’s future, even when the future is uncertain.